This spring break I’ve been testing out some of the Maker materials advocated by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager, and supplied by our district. My kids, ages 8 and 10, are my co-experimenters, and we’re checking out some of the new learning oriented electronics. The Raspberry Pi is an accessible, open device that (metaphorically) pulls the side panel off the computer tower and exposes the ways that it works. My kids found that the structure of the Pi made it easy to understand the basics of how a computer, or any electronic device, is set up.
The next step for us is to get it going. Plugged in, video, keyboard, power on! And the first error!
The SD card supplied by the district has a bunch of great operating systems (the software that allows human fingers and eyes to give commands to a device that thinks in 1’s and 0’s) for the Pi, but it didn’t work. The Main screen appeared, with menus and icons, but my keyboard wouldn’t function. After confirming that the keyboard had power, I decided that the problem was the operating system, and so I created a new boot disk using Raspbian, which worked just fine, and allowed access to the Pi’s command structure. I also found a lot of cool projects for the Pi (check out the Instructables site), all of which looked really interesting.
As you can see from the last paragraph, at this point I’m doing all the work and the learning, and my kids aren’t. This is not necessarily a problem, as we’re finding out what we need to do to get it ready to share with other students, and what they need in order to be able to make it work for them. The Raspberry Pi environment is ready for them to step up and try some basic programming, and with the instructions from Suntime Box, I’ll be able to help them do this. However, at their age they also need to have a sense that they can make something concrete with it, and I think we are not yet at that point.
That day the sun was shining, so we headed out to have some fun. Before we come back to the Pi, we’re going to try to find a more “hands on” entry point to the world of maker electronics. Stay tuned!
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